Thursday, February 21, 2013

‘A lawyer and not a thief - Something that astonished people'

Former Chief Justice Pascal Cologero Jr. of Louisiana is to be honored on February 22, 2013, for his many years of contributions to the high standards of the legal profession. Permit me to join in the blandishments and toss one further accolade onto the bier.

Former Chief Judge Cologero ought to be acknowledged for having helped to protect the public and the legal profession - from me.

It was on his watch that the disciplinary counsel of Louisiana initiated the destruction of my professional reputation and my career in the law.

I had to go. I am gone.

My suspension is a disbarment as I cannot apologize to the Justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court.  I had told them truths, which they elected to disregard.

Furthermore, I don’t want to pay them any more money. $3,000 for one mandatory hearing is enough. Further outgo would be on top of the $15,000 in fines which I was compelled to pay into the court of the judge about whom I complained - confidentially - without any other judge ever investigating my “allegations.” Ever.

But I do have a couple questions, which ought to be answered as people shower encomiums on a champion of the law as it is practiced in Louisiana, and Hawaii and Maryland - where I once held licenses to practice.

Why did none of the Fifth Circuit judges and state court justices who decided I needed a public humiliation not have the care and concern to tell the whole truth?

When I complained about my judge’s multiple instances of serious misconduct, why was I never accused of making a false statement? I assume this oversight is no oversight; a formal charge that I had lied, would require a look at the “allegations.” No formal charge = no formal investigation.

Why are disciplinary counsel not required to see to an investigation into the facts before bringing a prosecution? I begged disciplinary counsel first in Louisiana, and in Hawaii and in Maryland - to investigate my “allegations” about the judge, or forward them to an office that could. Each and every prosecutor to whom I wrote in the three jurisdictions simply ignored these requests.

First the conduct of my judge was never examined by supervising judges. Then, I was placed in a vortex of rules, which forbade the investigation of a judge. Why?

When I complained that my judge’s former law firm had benefitted from the judge’s improper, highly unusual ruling in another matter - worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the judge’s pals - why does the public record made by the Justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court neglect to advise the public: this complaint I made was never investigated and the only lawyer to be prosecuted was myself, who blew the whistle?

The professional rules of ethics mandate that a lawyer “shall” notify supervising judges of misconduct on the bench. Why does the decision that destroyed my reputation as a lawyer, nowhere state that I was acting within mandatory reporting rules? In the first federal lawsuit I ever filed I got into career-ending trouble because I took seriously the rules of professional ethics, which I had sworn to uphold.

My judge declined to transfer to another judge, a motion of recusal I filed in his court that complained of his personal financial dealings with lawyers. A referral is required on these grounds by the federal judicial rules of ethics. Why was this detail of judicial misconduct keep out of the order tossing aside my career as a lawyer?

When I complained about an attorney organization gifting a judge with overseas travel, why not let the public in on the fact that the lawyer who presided at my hearing and who recommended my destruction was a member of the lawyers’ group that sent the judge on an overseas junket?

When I complained about my judge’s behavior, why not mention that the lawyer who chaired the committee that destroyed me, was affiliated with a firm with an active practice before that very judge?

My judge fined me a total of $15,000. I have never seen such a large fine imposed - not after begging supervising judges for protection from a monster on the bench. Has there ever before been such a huge fine imposed by a judge - levied upon his judicial complainant?

Payment of these fines bankrupted my solo practice and was enough by itself to shutter my law business - which is exactly what occurred. I was finished after my one case in federal court.

The order which separated me from my law license makes much of the fact of my apology to the judge. But left out is the fact that my judge ordered me to apologize to him on threat of further fines. Why not tell the public this?

The decision which lifted my law license from me states that I resigned from the case but there is no mention of the fact that my judge first ordered my to resign from the case - thus forcing me to abandon my clients - dozens of incarcerated women, who had complained of being subjected to sexual and other physical abuse as well as threats of jail-house punishment for speaking to a lawyer (me) and for participating in a lawsuit (the one I filed for them). Why is none of this worth a mention in the decision that destroyed my career?

Everyone of my be-robed prosecutors - those who have bothered to review the files - know that I did what this monster ordered me to do - I paid all the fines, apologized to him, resigned from the case. What I could not do was trigger an investigation of him and his financial ties to lawyers in his courtroom. Only the judges permit themselves to enter this area - and then they don’t. I tried, was sanctioned by the Monster for making the effort and then disbarred.

But I do ‘fess up to making a serious mistake that is all my own.

I notified the judiciaries of Louisiana, Hawaii and Maryland about my complaints of judicial misconduct and what had happened as a result. This led to my prosecution years later - first in Louisiana, then daisy-chained everywhere else, for my “contumacious” behavior.

I had thought the oath I took to practice law with integrity would be upheld by the judges in whose courts I was licensed to appear. This was a foolish assumption.

In the past few years, I have recomposed the shards of my public life. I am a volunteer in a hospice program, commending folks into that Mystery, which awaits us all. For some of the dying , the highest arc of their meandering is entirely interior and private; others follow the philosophy of the judiciary: encountered earthly misery and malice is cosmic purpose, from which you may seek release or solace through a community of prayer but do not expect the well placed, right here, to notice you.

I have cultivated a distaste for “the law” which like many prostitutes, is made victim of scurrilous abuse foisted by the powerful, but yet, “the law” is a strangely complicit victim and therefore repellent to me. I write poetry as a re-balancing forrey into the unbalanced world that I occupy.

His Honor’s honor soared, then went to ground
His stony gaze on court officers smooth
His Honor had me easily broke down
His mutterings finding deference miss the truth

Let me join with other Loyola Law alumni, on February 22nd, and lift a glass to our former Chief.

Let us all salute Saint Ives, patron saint of both lawyers (not myself any longer) and the abandoned (that’s me);

- to good Saint Ives, the Improbable, who insisted that cases be proven before they are decided and whose tomb was inscribed, as the legend goes:

Advocatus et non latro
Res miranda populo

‘A lawyer and not a thief
Something that astonished people'



May It Please the Court by Richard Baldwin Cook (Google eBook)

Photo credit: LSBA Photo

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